Miami’s Cindy Lou’s Cookies Is Set to be the Next Worldwide Cookie Superstar
The next big cookie destination has opened in NYC, with plans for outposts around the U.S. and the world
Miami-based Cindy Lou's Cookies is about to become the next cookie sensation, starting with its first NYC location, the first outside of Florida, followed by 30 shops in cities from Dubai to London.
The New York location for Cindy Lou's is now open in Manhattan West (385 9th Ave.), a six-million square-foot multiuse complex on Manhattan's West Side.
For Cindy Kruse and her life/business partner Eric Paige, it’s a Cinderella story. Just a year ago, with COVID forcing many businesses to shutter, Kruse and Paige were fighting to keep their little Miami shop open. "The pandemic was so hard on us," said Kruse who says that in 2020, all of the bakery's wholesale business — which made up the bulk of their livelihood — were wiped out. "A month after the pandemic started, we had zero wholesale accounts," she said.
Kruse and Paige decided to keep the shop open anyway. "We just said, let's go in and bake and give it away," said Kruse. Like many other businesses, they started to make food for hospital workers. "That sustained us during the pandemic and kept our workers employed.”
Call it karma, good luck, or the result of years of hard work, but a few months ago, Kruse was contacted by hospitality group, SBE's C3 Division with an offer: Did they want to partner up to open Cindy Lou's Cookies at the Citizens Food Halls that were planned in about two dozen major cities including Seattle, Atlanta, and Chicago?
Kruse said the opportunity is life-changing for a small-business owner. "It's just Eric and me, and three people. We're here six days a week scooping, baking, taking out the trash. I wouldn't have it any other way."
Over the summer, Kruse found herself flying to New York City to train her first team. "We're bringing the concept, the recipes, and the energy," she says. The cookies in the New York shop— and beyond — will be made the same way as in the flagship Miami bakery. "We're using the same ingredients and the same procedures." What is different is that Cindy Lou's will have an entire branding team behind it. "They're doing boxes and T-shirts for us," she said.
Kruse said that each shop will offer about a dozen flavors at a time of the 35 different cookie recipes that Cindy Lou's is known for. "We're going to start small and go from there," said Kruse. Flavors include classics like chocolate chip, red velvet, and oatmeal raisin along with exotic cookies that bring a taste of Miami to cities like Chicago and Seattle. “We have to introduce our guava coconut macaroon to the world,” she said. According to Kruse, each cookie weighs about seven ounces — enough to share — and costs $4-5 each. “I describe them as an affordable luxury,” she says.
Kruse recently visited the site of the soon-to-open Citizens Food Hall in Downtown Miami and was flabbergasted by what she saw: A large mural was posted at the site, featuring famous chefs that were soon to have presences at the food hall. There, among Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, famed Italian butcher Dario Cecchini, and Spanish culinary sensation Dani Garcia was her picture. "I was in tears. It's surreal. I know that this is what people work their whole life for."
Kruse is thankful to SBE — and its leader, Sam Nazarian, for the opportunity. She calls him "Hurricane Sam" for coming into her life and changing it. After a quarter-century of baking for Miami giants like the Fontainebleau Hotel and Barton G., Kruse went on her own in 2013 to bake and sell cookies to local Miami coffee houses like Panther Coffee and Vice City Bean.
In 2016, she and Paige raised $30,000 through a Kickstarter to fund their small Miami bakery. During the pandemic, Kruse had a moment of doubt whether Cindy Lou's could stay afloat. Then, SBE came calling. "It hasn't been easy. So many times I wanted to give up, but I worked my heart out."
Kruse said she's heard stories about small shops making it big — ice creamery Salt & Straw and Starbucks come to mind — but she never thought it would happen to her.
Now, faced with being the new cookie sensation, Kruse is taking it one store opening at a time, still grinding. Still baking. "I'm still pinching myself. But I have a little shuffle in my kitchen clogs these days."